MEET OUR 2023 HEART
About Dr. Chan
We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Dr. Vincent Chan as our 2023 Heart Month Ambassador. Dr. Chan is a cardiac surgeon at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Ottawa.
He is a talented surgeon and researcher, who shows extraordinary dedication towards both patient care and innovative research to improve outcomes. As Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa, he inspires upcoming generations of physicians, providing them with a platform for success in cardiovascular procedures and treatments.
This year, Dr. Chan will help promote awareness for heart health during February is Heart Month, and is a true example of the talent and commitment we can foster with your contribution.
Dr. Chan rejoined the Heart Institute as a cardiac surgeon in 2012 after spending a year at Mount Sinai as an instructor in cardiology. He first came to the Heart Institute in 2005 as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCSC) in Cardiac Surgery after receiving his medical degree from Queens University.
Dr. Chan has received numerous awards including the Ontario Medical Association Student Achievement Award, the Detweiler Travelling Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the Wilbert J. Keon award from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Alumni.
RESEARCH & CLINICAL INTERESTS
Dr. Chan has an extensive cardiac research background, with notable expertise and interest particularly focused on advancing cardiac care through his research on repairing and replacing mitral valves, heart valve bioprostheses (heart valves consisting of an animal part or containing animal tissue) and mechanical valves.
Dr. Chan is also on the forefront of research in the area of minimally invasive surgery, including groundbreaking work on coronary artery bypass grafts and other treatments. His contributions are paving the way to more precise and effective procedure options, with reduced risks, less postoperative discomfort and quicker recovery times for heart patients.
Q&A with Dr. Vincent Chan
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE OUR 2023 HEART MONTH AMBASSADOR?
It’s an overwhelming privilege to be selected as the 2023 Heart Month Ambassador. There are so many physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals here at the institute who are involved in the care of our patients. It’s an honour to represent them.
And now, as Heart Month Ambassador, I look forward to meeting donors and sharing our message with the media.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE OUR COMMUNITY SUPPORTING RESEARCH AT THE HEART INSTITUTE?
There’s no question that our donors are the fuel for the engine.
And the thing that I find most inspiring is when a former patient, someone that has been through the harsh truth of living with heart disease, decides to become part of the cycle and give back.
But it’s actually giving forward. I think that’s a very powerful thing – moving from a position of vulnerability, living with an illness to a place where you help nurture and care for others.
How beautiful is that?
It’s such a phenomenal thing for people to do, and that’s what donors do for the institute every day. All of us who benefit from their donations are incredibly humbled by that.
Like so many things, research funding models have changed, and as an organisation, we look for ways to do more with less. That’s why having a little more gas in the tank is so helpful. That’s why Heart Month is so fantastic, donations are matched, and successful research receives even more funding.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE RESEARCH PROGRAMS AT UOHI?
What’s exciting to me about our research may seem incredibly un-exciting to our donors!
The first thing that gives our research an advantage is data. It’s about collecting as much information as possible to help us ask the right questions and put the right people in place to study the problem.
That brings me to the second exciting thing – the people. The team approach we take to solve every problem. When you have every discipline represented — surgery, cardiology, nursing, imaging, scientists — the mass of critical thinking sets the bar very high. And that means we put a lot of metrics and measures in place to stay on track, always moving forward.
As a surgeon, I see one path to follow. The cardiologist on the team may see another. And the research scientist who has a completely different perspective will ask completely different questions. A big research project can seem very complex, but when you have everyone collaborating from the beginning, it breaks the research down into steps that are achievable.
The combination of knowledge and expertise makes it less intimidating.
HOW ARE DONATIONS USED TO HELP ADVANCE RESEARCH?
There are so many amazing research studies at many different stages here at the institute.
That means that each donation may have a different path.
For example, they may be used to purchase specialised equipment used in a laboratory, or to help us bring on staff who oversee the collection of the data we need to keep our studies on track. That may include interviewing patients who volunteer to be part of a research study, entering the data into our database for analysis, or collecting and evaluating information that’s already out in the medical community to make sure we are on the right track.
It’s incredibly important at the Heart Institute to make sure that every dollar invested in research is used wisely.
Can you give us an example of how that works?
Let me tell you about a study I was involved in a few years ago. My specialty is mitral valve surgery, which is performed to correct mitral valve regurgitation, which occurs when the valve doesn’t close tightly. The blood flows backward into the heart and can’t move as efficiently through the body as it should. This can result in fatigue and shortness of breath.
On average, the institute performs 10 times more mitral valve surgeries than similar centres in Canada and the U.S. The sheer number of mitral valve surgeries performed at the Heart Institute made it possible for us to carry out our research entirely at the institute.
A database had been set up by Dr. Thierry Mesana, one of the leading valve surgeons in the world and currently President and CEO of the Heart Institute. All the surgeries were performed by either Dr. Mesana or myself and the database was used to follow these patients post surgery. It allowed us to assess their continuing heart health and provided access to all care and testing, including records of subsequent echocardiograms, undertaken to examine valve function.
We discovered that when women were being referred to us, they generally have more advanced disease in their mitral valves than men. We also learned that women undergo valve replacement, rather than repair, more often than men. Despite having more advanced disease going into surgery, both women and men have similar survival rates, close to 90 per cent, five years after surgery.
Women, however, experience recurrent mitral regurgitation after surgery slightly more often than men. Having this data lays the foundation for next steps:
Surgically speaking, the treatment is equitable for both genders, but the results are not. That is an outcome that needs to change. This is an example of how we identify next steps.
WHAT CARDIAC CARE BREAKTHROUGHS DO YOU SEE HAPPENING IN THE NEXT DECADE?
As a surgeon, I think about this as if I’m the patient on the operating table. What are we studying now that will change the outcome for me in 10 or 20 years?
I know that the first thing may be a tiny incision for minimally invasive surgery instead of “cracking open the chest.”
There will be different kinds of therapies, like the gold nano sprays we are working on right now, or repairs made with a patch that is unique to me from a 3D printer generated right in the operating room.
As our database grows, we can begin to identify who will get a disease before it needs surgical intervention – I’d like to be on that list!
Regardless, the one thing that I hope doesn’t change, is the collaboration we have at the Heart Institute today. Everyone is focused on the best outcome for the patient.
I honestly can’t predict exactly what will change in the next decade, but I believe to my core that delivering the best care possible for our patients will not.